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Monday, June 17, 2013

Posted on Walking With Integrity

I am delighted and honored to have the following essay posted on IntegrityUSA's blog known as  Walking With Integrity.

Please visit Integrity's webpage and blog. If you're not a member, please consider becoming one and/or at least make a contribution to the important work done by this independent justice organization of The Episcopal Church.

El Roi: Waiting for SCOTUS on DOMA/Prop 8

by Elizabeth Kaeton

I know some people who have bitten their nails down to the quick.

Others just can’t stop talking about it. It’s the buzz in most of the circles I travel.

If you were from a different country, or landed here from a different planet, you’d think you had forgotten everything you learned in“Conversational English 101”.

“When do you think we’ll hear from SCOTUS on DOMA/Prop8?”

“Will SCOTUS let Prop 8 stand but DOMA fall?”

In case you are from another country or another planet or have been living on a secluded island somewhere in the middle of the Pacific, let me explain.

The Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) has been deliberating two landmark cases for the LGBT community. One is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a law signed in 1996 by then President of the United States (POTUS), Bill Clinton – which restricted the federal recognition of marriage to one man and one woman.

DOMA prevents those who are in same-sex marriages from receiving a host of federal benefits, such as the ability to file a joint tax return. In the case before the court, a widow was forced to pay $363,000 in inheritance taxes after her female spouse died, a liability she would not have incurred if she'd been married to a man. A federal appeals court ruled that provision of DOMA was unconstitutional. Another provision, requiring states to recognize only opposite-sex marriages performed in other states, is not at issue here.

Proposition 8 (Prop 8) a voter referendum, is California's same-sex marriage ban that was struck down on narrow grounds by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. Should SCOTUS uphold that decision, same-sex marriages could begin again in California in mid- to-late July, according to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office. (San Francisco was an intervenor in the case on the plaintiff's side.)

If the court uses the case to issue a more sweeping ruling that all same-sex marriage bans are illegal, that would effectively legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country. There are many in-between possibilities as well.

So, yes, anxiety is high because the stakes are high. Very high.

How high? Well, just our very lives as LGBT people who are citizens of the United States of America (USA) who pay taxes, mow our lawns, take out the trash, recycle and are, otherwise, good citizens of this country and the Universe.

So, when will we hear the decision from SCOTUS? Odds are that we will hear sometime this month (June, 2013), which ends the SCOTUS term.

When cases aren't decided by the end of the term, the protocol is to reorder for re-argument for the next term. But there hasn't been any indication in the SCOTUS blog notes that would indicate that judges are leaning in that direction.

The last Really Big case this Supreme Court ruled on was the Affordable Care Act. If you recall that was on a Thursday, not a "Super Monday" (Mondays in June—the court's busiest month—when opinion announcements are revealed are dubbed Super Mondays) which basically means that the Court decides what days it will issue opinions.

More opinions are expected this coming Thursday. So, if the Court is waiting until the last possible minute to rule, it would probably be on June 26 or 27 (a Thursday).

And if the rulings on DOMA and Prop. 8 are released that week, that timing would coincide with New York City's Gay Pride and San Francisco's Gay Pride—two of the biggest celebrations in the country and one of is a city that's directly affected by the court's Prop. 8 decision.

This is why some people refer to SCOTUS as “The Supremes” –because they seem to know more about drama than the entire combined casts of“The Young and The Restless,” and “Days of our Lives.”

Now that we are coming down to the wire, how do we survive this waiting game?

I was recently reminded by former interim director of Integrity, Harry Knox, (now CEO and ED of RCRC - Religious Coalition of Reproductive Choice) of the name given to God by our sister Hagar.

In Genesis 16, Hagar flees to the desert from the abuse of her mistress, Sari, who was unable to have a child of her own and had “given”Hagar to her husband, Abram, to have a child, the one who would be named Ishmael.

Hagar is visited in the desert by an angel of the Lord who tells her to return to Sari and promises that God will “increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

Hagar gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

El Roi. The God who sees me.

We may have been invisible to the government, but God sees us. The One God who “marvelously made and even more marvelously redeemed” us has always seen us.

El Roi. The Scriptures offer us this beautiful name for God as a doorway into the soul of justice.

As we count down the days to the SCOTUS decision, I urge you to remember this prayer of Hagar: No matter what happens, God sees us.

As the arc of history bends toward justice, more and more of the face of God is revealed to us – for God has seen us and has heard our cry.

As important as the decisions of the SCOTUS is on these two issues, let us hold in mind and in our hearts the prayer of Hagar: “You are the God who sees me, for I have now seen the One who sees me.”

The Rev’d Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton has been a member of IntegrityUSA since 1977. She has served on the Board as well as legislative floor whip for two General Conventions. She was, for five years, Canon Missioner to The Oasis and is the immediate past National Convener of The Episcopal Women’s Caucus, a position she held for 10 years. She presently works as a pastoral counselor and Hospice chaplain and serves The Episcopal Church as a reader for the General Ordination Exams (GOEs) as well as the national board of RCRC (Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice).


Sextant said...

Congratulations on your posting! It is brilliant as always. Let us hope and pray that the Supremes rule in the favor of justice for all people who wish to love one another and express it through marriage.

Again congratulations on your great post!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Sextant. SCOTUS will rule the way SCOTUS will rule. Of course I want them to rule "the right way" - which is, of course, "my way". What I want more, however, is for THEM to pray their way through these two decisions. I want them to do what's right and what's just.

Having said that, I put my trust in God. Not SCOTUS.

IT said...

Here in California, I feel like I've been under the sword of Damocles for years, and it wears me out.

It's hurtful. I've been asked more than once "are you still married? I thought Prop8 banned that," said in a conversational tone as though it's just a formality, when it is my MARRIAGE which is my HEART you are talking about.

Yes, we are still married.

We married right before Prop8 passed. We sobbed and sobbed the night of the election. Then it was months of waiting for the California Supreme Court to decide that Prop8 was regrettably legal but was NOT retroactive, so yes we were and are still married and recognized in CA as married (that had been in question: our marriage hanging on a legal thread).

Then AFER brought their case to federal district court (our side won) and the Appeals court (we won again) and now, we wait for The Nine.

Sober court watchers think that they will reject the Prop8 case on a technicality (standing). This will provide relief to the two couples who brought the case, but likely more litigation to apply it throughout the state. Frankly, I think we are going to have to kill this sucker at the ballot box.

The argument against DOMA seems more likely to be upheld. The Windsor case stands in for several other DOMA cases that have made their way through federal courts in at least three circuits. If clause 3 falls, as it should, then my wife and I will have a federally recognized marriage, rather than one that is recognized in a handful of states (including CA, which not only recognizes same sex marriages that we performed prior to PropH8, but also those that were legally entered into in other states. The haters got very little from Prop8 .)

Straight America may feel this SCOTUS term is all gay all the time but gay America has been living with this much longer.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Right you are, IT. Which is precisely why DE's Marriage Equality law is written so that couples can take their civil union or domestic partnership into City Hall, fill out a short form, and it's done. No more drama. No more hoops to jump through. No more crawling to the altar of acceptability.

It's been a long, long bumpy road and it's far from over.

Remember the prayer of Hagar.